Those Multifidi

The multifidi are important proprioceptive sentinels for the low back, as well as the rest of the body, for virtually every activity you do weight bearing, including gait. They are implicated in many instances of low back pain, especially folks with flexion or extension intolerance, since their fiber orientation and thus mechanical advantage (or disadvantage) is dependent upon whether or not you are maintaining a normal lumbar lordosis.

Modalities which boost their function are an excellent adjunct to the rehabilitation process. Since they are not under volitional control (go ahead, try and contract your L2/L3 multifidus), they are innervated by the vestibulospinal tract and we must use proprioceptive work to engage them. Dry Needling is one modality that can help them to become functional again.

RESULTS and CONCLUSION:
“Significant difference was found in the percentage of change of muscle activation post needling between groups on the right side at level L4-5. A slight increase in the percentage of muscle activity, post procedure was observed in the dry needling group compared with the control group, although not significant in other segments examined. An improvement of back muscle function following dry needling procedure in healthy individuals was found. This implies that dry needling might stimulate motor nerve fibers and as such increase muscle activity.”

see also our post here.

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015 Sep 6. [Epub ahead of print]
The immediate effect of dry needling on multifidus muscles’ function in healthy individuals. Dar G1,2, Hicks GE3.

Low back pain and quadriceps compensation. A study.

“Neuromuscular changes in the lower extremity occur while resisting knee and hip joint moments following isolated lumbar paraspinal exercise. Persons with a history of LBP seem to rely more heavily on quadriceps activity while jogging.“- Hart et al.

Recently I discussed a paper (link below) about how soleus  motoneuron pool excitability increased following lumbar paraspinal fatigue and how it may indicate a postural response to preserve lower extremity function.
Today I bring you an article of a similar sort.  This paper discusses the plausibility that a relationship exists between lumbar paraspinal muscle fatigue and quadriceps muscle activation and the subsequent changes in hip and knee function when running fatigue ensued. 

"Reduced external knee flexion, knee adduction, knee internal rotation and hip external rotation moments and increased external knee extension moments resulted from repetitive lumbar paraspinal fatiguing exercise. Persons with a self-reported history of LBP had larger knee flexion moments than controls during jogging. Neuromuscular changes in the lower extremity occur while resisting knee and hip joint moments following isolated lumbar paraspinal exercise. Persons with a history of LBP seem to rely more heavily on quadriceps activity while jogging.”- Hart et al.

Whether this or any study was perfectly performed or has validity does not matter in my discussion here today. What does matter pertaining to my dialogue here today is understanding and respecting the value of the clinical examination (and not depending on a gait analysis to determine your corrective exercise prescription and treatment). When an area fatigues and cannot stabilize itself adequately, compensation must occur to adapt. Protective postural control strategies must be attempted and deployed to stay safely upright during locomotion. The system must adapt or pain or injury may ensue, sometimes this may take months or years and the cause is not clear until clinical examination is performed. Your exam must include mobility and stability assessments, motor pattern evaluation, and certainly skill, coordination, ENDURANCE and strength assessments if you are to get a clear picture of what is driving your clients compensation and pain. 

So, if your client comes in with knee, hip or ankle pain and a history of low back pain, you might want to pull out these articles and bash them and other similar ones into your brain. Remember what I mentioned when i reviewed the soleus article ? I mentioned that the reduced ankle dorsiflexion range may be from a soleus muscle postural compensation reaction to low back pain. In today’s discussion, impairment of the hip ranges of motion or control of the knee (from quadriceps adaptive compensation) may also be related to low back pain, in this case, paraspinal fatigue.  

Sometimes the problem is from the bottom up, sometimes it is from the top down. It is what makes this game so challenging and mind numbing at times. If only it were as simple as, “you need to work on abdominal breathing”, or “you need to strengthen your core”.  If only it were that simple. 

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

References:
J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2011 Jun;21(3):466-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2011.02.002. Epub 2011 Mar 8.
Effects of paraspinal fatigue on lower extremity motoneuron excitability in individuals with a history of low back pain. Bunn EA1, Grindstaff TL, Hart JM, Hertel J, Ingersoll CD.

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2009 Dec;19(6):e458-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2008.09.003. Epub 2008 Dec 16. Jogging gait kinetics following fatiguing lumbar paraspinal exercise.
Hart JM1, Kerrigan DC, Fritz JM, Saliba EN, Gansneder B, Ingersoll CD

When was the last time you thought about the pairing of your glutes and your quadratus? This is an important mechanism, especially when ascending and descending stairs,

Here is a great exercises to help with that:

Lower limb muscle strategies in low back pain patients.

When your client comes in with knee or foot/ankle issues do not dismiss the history of intermittent or exercise induced low back issues. It is possible that your client may be coming in with a loss of ankle rocker/dorsiflexion.  And, from your physical exam and screens, you may be at a loss as to why their ankle rocker is impaired. This problem further down the chain may simply be a compensation strategy to maintain function and postural integrity due to lumbar functional/fatigue challenges.

So you have sporadic low back pain and knee pain. Could they be linked ?

It has been a long believed rule that it is “all about the core”.  We have learned in recent years that this should be a very loosely accepted rule. 

In an old blog post (link) we stated some deeper truths:

Dr. McGill discusses the basic tenet that the hips and shoulders are used for power production and that the spine and core are used for creating stiffness and stability for the ultimate power transmission through the limb.  He makes it clear that if power is generated from the spine, it will suffer.  As gait experts, you should never forget this principle, if the spine and lumbopelvic interval is not strong/stiff and stable enough, the limbs can over power them and thus your gait, your running, your sport, could be causing you pain as the forces are poorly managed as they attempt to traverse the spine. 

Here we find a study referenced below that suggests that when the lumbopelvic interval is fatigued, that the lower limb muscles may step up activity.  This is a neat concept, not earth shaking by any means, but it nice to have studies that help solidify knowledge of compensation strategies.

“Individuals with low back pain (LBP) have been shown to demonstrate decreased quadriceps activation following lumbar paraspinal fatigue. The response of other lower extremity muscles is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine changes in motoneuron pool excitability of the vastus medialis, fibularis longus, and soleus following lumbar paraspinal fatigue in individuals with and without a history of LBP.” 

What this study attempted to do was perform a controlled laboratory study designed to compare motoneuron pool excitability before and after a lumbar paraspinal fatiguing exercise. Twenty individuals (10 with history of low back pain) performed isometric lumbar paraspinal exercise until a 25% shift in paraspinal muscle surface electromyography median frequency occurred. 

What they discovered was that the soleus motoneuron pool excitability increased following lumbar paraspinal fatigue independent of group allocation and occurred in the absence of changes in vastus medialis or fibularis longus muscles. 

The authors propose that “increased soleus motoneuron pool excitability may be a postural response to preserve lower extremity function”.

When your client comes in with knee or foot/ankle issues do not dismiss the history of intermittent or exercise induced low back issues. They very well could be coming in with a loss of ankle rocker/dorsiflexion.  And, from your physical exam and screens, you may be at a loss as to why their ankle rocker is impaired.The problem further down the chain may simply be a compensation strategy to maintain function and postural integrity due to lumbar functional/fatigue challenges. 

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys.

Reference:

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2011 Jun;21(3):466-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2011.02.002. Epub 2011 Mar 8.Effects of paraspinal fatigue on lower extremity motoneuron excitability in individuals with a history of low back pain.Bunn EA1, Grindstaff TL, Hart JM, Hertel J, Ingersoll CD.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21388827

Yes, you are looking INSIDE this toe. That IS a screw and metal plate in that toe. 

What kind of stuff finds its way into your office ? I get all kinds of things it seems, at least once a day something comes in that makes me scratch my head. 

This client just wanted my opinion and thoughts on their toe and their gait once they are ambulating again. They have had multiple surgeries to this poor foot. You can see multiple scars over multiple digits and metatarsals.  This is the 3rd surgery to the big toe, the last 2 have been attempts at correcting failed prior surgeries. This is obviously the last straw surgery, total fusion of the metatarsophalangeal joint.  What is interesting in this case is that this plate was taken out about 4 weeks ago, and the skin was stretched back over and the wound closed up (forgot to take update photo for you). I saw it yesterday, and I was amazed at how healed up the area was. They are months post op now, and they can load the toe heavily now, that is always amazing to me. The body’s healing ability is a miracle. Of course, if you have been with us here long enough you will know that my “concern button” immediately got pushed but the client was proactive and asked the question before my oral diarrhea of concerns started.

So, they wanted to know about their gait and what to watch out for.  Off the top of your head, without thinking, you should be able to rattle off the following:

  • impaired toe off
  • premature heel rise
  • watchful eye on achilles issues
  • impaired hip extension and gluteal function
  • impaired terminal ankle plantar flexion (because they cannot access the synergists FHL and FHB)
  • impaired terminal ankle dorsi flexion (because they cannot access the synergists EHL and EHB)
  • lateral toe off which will promote ankle and foot inversion, which will challenge the peronei
  • frontal plane hip-pelvis drift because of the lateral toe off and lack of glute function
  • possible low back pain/tightness because of the  frontal plane pelvis drift and from altered hip extension motor patterning (and glute impairment)
  • possible knee pain from tracking challenges because they cannot complete medial tripod loading and thus sufficient pronation to internally spin the limb to get the knee to sagittal loading
  • impaired arm swing, more notable contralaterally

There is more, but that is enough for now. You need to know total body mechanics, movement patterns, normal gait cycle events (you have to know normal to know abnormal) and more. You have to know what normal is to understand when you are looking at abnormal.

* So, dial this back to something more simple, a “stubbed toe”, a painful sesamoid, painful pronation or a turf toe or hallux limitus.  They will all have the same list of complications that need to be evaluated, considered and addressed. This list should convey the importance that if your client has low back pain, examining the big toe motion is critical. Also, if you are just looking at the foot and toe in these cases, pack your bags … .  you don’t belong here. If you are just adjusting feet and toes and playing with orthotics while the list above does not constantly file back and forth through your brain, again, pack all your bags, grab your cat and leave town (just kidding, try reading more and get to some seminars).

If you know the complicated things, then the simple things become … … . . simple.

Your local treadmill gait analysis guru should know all of this if they are going to recommend shoes and exercises. Shame on them if there is no physical exam however. The data roadmap from the gait analysis software print out is not going to get you even out of the driveway let alone down the street. The data is going to tell you what you are doing to compensate, not tell you what is wrong. You must know anatomy, biomechanics, neurology, orthopedics and how to apply them to get the recipe right, not just which shoe in a store will unload the medial tripod of the foot or which exercise will lengthen your stride on the left. 

… .  sorry for the rant, too much coffee this morning, obviously.

Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

Podcast #99: How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense.

Topics: Plus, How foot placement, the glutes and cross over gait all come together and make sense. Plus, discussions on vibration,proprioception, cerebellum and movement.

Show Sponsors:

*newbalancechicago.com

*Rocktape.com

A. Link to our server: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegaitguys/pod_99final.mp3

Podcast Direct Download: http://thegaitguys.libsyn.com/podcast-99-how-foot-placement-the-glutes-and-cross-over-gait-all-come-together-and-make-sense

Other Gait Guys stuff

B. iTunes link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gait-guys-podcast/id559864138
C. Gait Guys online /download store (National Shoe Fit Certification & more !)
http://store.payloadz.com/results/results.aspx?m=80204
D. other web based Gait Guys lectures:
Monthly lectures at : www.onlinece.com type in Dr. Waerlop or Dr. Allen, ”Biomechanics”

-Our Book: Pedographs and Gait Analysis and Clinical Case Studies
Electronic copies available here:

-Amazon/Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Pedographs-Gait-Analysis-Clinical-Studies-ebook/dp/B00AC18M3E

-Barnes and Noble / Nook Reader:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pedographs-and-gait-analysis-ivo-waerlop-and-shawn-allen/1112754833?ean=9781466953895

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pedographs-and-gait-analysis/id554516085?mt=11

-Hardcopy available from our publisher:
http://bookstore.trafford.com/Products/SKU-000155825/Pedographs-and-Gait-Analysis.aspx

Show notes:

Evaluating the Differential Electrophysiological Effects of the Focal Vibrator on the Tendon and Muscle Belly in Healthy People ARTICLE in ANNALS OF REHABILITATION MEDICINE · AUGUST 2014 DOI: 10.5535/arm.2014.38.4.494 · Source: PubMed

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jul 15;112(2):374-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00138.2014. Epub 2014 Apr 30. A neuromechanical strategy for mediolateral foot placement in walking humans.  Rankin BL

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Oct;114(4):2220-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00551.2015. Epub 2015 Aug 19.

Hip proprioceptive feedback influences the control of mediolateral stability during human walking.

Roden-Reynolds DC1, Walker MH1, Wasserman CR1, Dean JC2.

Eur Spine J. 2015 May 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls.
Cooper NA1, Scavo KM, Strickland KJ, Tipayamongkol N, Nicholson JD, Bewyer DC, Sluka KA.

Prog Brain Res. 2004;143:353-66. Role of the cerebellum in the control and adaptation of gait in health and disease. Thach WT1, Bastian AJ.

You’d have to be smart to walk this lazy, and people are

Research suggests that humans are wired for laziness

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150910131451.htm#.VfWquNKaf3s.facebook

Jessica C. Selinger, Shawn M. O’Connor, Jeremy D. Wong, J. Maxwell Donelan. Humans Can Continuously Optimize Energetic Cost during Walking. Current Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.016

The gluteus medius and low back pain.

We see this one ALL the time. We are sure you do as well.
“Gluteus medius weakness and gluteal muscle tenderness are common symptoms in people with chronic non-specific LBP.”
It is often more on the side of pelvic frontal plane drift. The abdominals and spinal stabilizers also often test weak on this same side. We often see compromise of hip rotation stability as well because , since the hip is relatively adducting (because the pelvis is undergoing repeated frontal plane drift, hence no hip abduction) there is often a component of cross over gait phenomenon which can threaten rotation stability of the lower limb (type “cross over gait” into the search box of our tumblr blog for a landslide of work we have written on that phenomenon).

Eur Spine J. 2015 May 26. [Epub ahead of print]
Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls.
Cooper NA1, Scavo KM, Strickland KJ, Tipayamongkol N, Nicholson JD, Bewyer DC, Sluka KA.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26006705

Lumbar link? Ankle, spinal pathologies coexist in cadavers | Lower Extremity Review Magazine

It makes sense…but which came 1st?

Just make sure you ask your foot patients about their back, and your back patients about their feet

The Gait Guys

Lumbar link? Ankle, spinal pathologies coexist in cadavers | Lower Extremity Review Magazine

Subtle clues. Helping someone around their anatomy

This patient comes in with low back pain of years duration, helped temporarily with manipulation and activity. Her exam is relatively benign, save for increased lumbar discomfort with axial compression in extension and extension combined with lateral bending. Believe it or not, her abdominal and gluteal muscles (yes, all of them) test strong (no, we couldn’t believe it either; she is extremely regular with her exercises). She has bilateral internal tibial torsion (ITT) and bilateral femoral retro torsion (FRT). She has a decreased progression angle of the feet during walking and the knees do not progress past midlilne. There is a loss of active ankle rocker with gait, but not on the exam table; same with hip extension. 

We know she has a sweater on which obscures things a bit, but this is what you have to work with. Look carefully at her posture from the side. The gravitational line should pass from the earlobe, through the shoulder, greater trochanter and through or just anterior to the lateral malleolus.

In the top picture, can you see how her pelvis is anterior to this line? Do you see how it gets worse when she lifts her hands over her head (yes, they are directly over head)? This can signify many things, but often indicates a lack of flexibility in the lumbar lordosis; in this case, she cannot extend her lumbar spine further so she translates her pelvis forward. Most folks should have enough range of motion from a neutral pelvis and enough stability to allow the movement to occur without a significant change. Go ahead, we know you are curious, go watch yourself do this in a mirror and see if YOU change.

Looking at the bottom left picture, can you pick out that she has a genu valgus? Look at the hips and look at the tibial angle.

In the bottom left picture, did you note the progression angle (or lack of) in her feet? This is a common finding (but NOT pathognomonic) in patients with internal tibial torsion. Notice the forefoot adductus on the right foot?

So what do we think is going on?

  • ITT and FRT both limit the amount of internal rotation of the thigh and lower leg. Remember you NEED 4 degrees of each to walk normally. Most folks have significantly more
  • if you don’t have enough internal rotation of the lower extremity, you will need to “create” it. You can do this by extending the lumbar spine (bottom picture, right) or externally rotating the lower extremity
  • Since her ITT and FRT are bilateral, she flexes the pelvis and nutates the pelvis anteriorly.
  • the lumbar facet joints should only carry 20% of load
  • she is increasing the load and causing facet imbercation resulting in LBP.

What did we do?

  • taught her about neutral pelvic positioning, creating more ROM in the lumbar spine
  • had her consciously alter her progression angle of her foot on strike, to create more available ROM in internal rotation
  • encouraged her to wear neutral shoes
  • worked on helping her to create more ankle rocker and hip extension with active drills and exercise (ie gait rehabilitation); shuffle walks, Texas walk, toes up walking, etc

why didn’t we put her in an orthotic to externally rotate her lower extremity? Because with internal tibial torsion, this would move her knee outside the saggital plane and create a biomechanical conflict at the knee and possibly compromising her meniscus.

Cool case, eh? We thought so. Keep on learning so your brain keeps expanding. If you are not growing your brain, you are shrinking it!

The Gait Guys

The case of the focal alopecia. The what?

A focal hair loss. You will see this if you look for it. You will also gain insight into what is (or may be) going on.

Take a good look at these pix. Notice anything about the left anterior lower leg? Besides the varicosity, did you notice the absence of hair? Look again. The devil is in the details, eh?

So, is this a Nair experiment gone wild? No, he never touches the stuff

Shaves just one part of his leg? Really? NOT!

Bad burn resulting in follicular damage? Nice thought, but no.

Weird infection or food allergy? Another good thought but no.

OK. I give up.

So you need to ask the patient a question, what is it?

Do you have a history of chronic low back pain?

Bingo!

Where do you think the problem may be coming from?

Take a look at the dermatomal diagram at the bottom. It represents the area of skin innervated by a spinal nerve. Looks like L5 to us.

How can we confirm it?

muscle test predominantly L5 innervated muscles like the long extensors of the toes and gluteus medius. You could also x ray and look for degenerative changes at the L4-L5 level. Flexion/extension films may reveal some instability at this level as well.

Why does it happen?

Hair growth is influenced by local blood flow and “tropic” influences from the autonomic nervous system and sensory feedback loops, supplied to the area segmentally (ie. by each spinal level). This can be traced back to embryology and development of the musculoskeletal system via the somite and their individual sclerotome (connective tissue elements), dermatome (skin elements) and myotome(muscular elements).

How could this influence his gait?

weakness of the L5 innervated muscles possibly causing:

  • crossover gait
  • lean to one side during stance phase
  • pelvic “cruise” to one side during stance phase on  that limb
  • foot drop and steppage gait (lifting the limb higher on one side to get the foot to clear)

Details, details, details. Pay attention and look carefully. It is all right there if you look hard enough.

The Gait Guys. Balding, yet still neurologically intact